Have you ever been to a sing along party? Oh let me tell you… it is the bomb! So much fun can be had with one piano player and a room full of happy people.
I had the pleasure of being hired to play for a few Christmas caroling parties a few years ago and I got this idea in my head about hosting one with my piano students. Except the catch would be that THEY would provide the music. So after several years of dreaming up this scheme, I finally did it over the holidays! It was a little more prep work than a regular recital, yes, but the results were totally worth the effort. Here’s what you do:
Start planning AT LEAST 3 months in advance. I think 4 or 5 is better, but 3 is doable. Have the kids pick a song that is classic enough to be known by most of the adults and kids. Recent pop songs are fine as long as they’re popular enough for most of the room to sing along. One song is enough for everyone if you have a big roster of kids. If your studio is small, consider 2 songs.
Choose songs that have simple chord progressions. I have students that vary from total beginner (and little hands) to advance. The advanced kids can play harder sheet music note for note, but the new kids should stick to chords if they’re hands are strong enough. Here’s a little tutorial I posted on YouTube for how to play LET IT BE. You’ll notice I don’t do anything too fancy with the beat at all. This is totally doable for a new student.
If chords are too tricky for the small hands, playing the melody and singing along works out fine!
Have the parents help you prepare the kids. Parents should typically help to encourage practice, but this time around it’s especially important. Keep a regular dialogue with them as the weeks go by to build enthusiasm. I talked about the party often and by the time it was party day everyone was so amped up, we were guaranteed to have a great time.
Print lyric books. Once you know what songs are going to be played, make some lyric sheets for each song. To save time, you can send all the files to your local copy shop and have them printed out and stapled within 24 hours. I did this at FedEx Kinkos. To save money, you can order a little more than half the amount of the audience size and let everyone share.
Consider having treats before the show. At a typical recital, we save refreshments for afterward, but since this is a party we want everyone to be in a festive mood. If your location allows it, serve wine to the adults. Order pizzas. We had the party at my home and everyone brought a treat and a bottle of wine. I provided pizzas. It was chilly, so we had a fire in the backyard for everyone to gather around and eat and chat. About 40 minutes later, we all gathered in the living room to sing.
Have hand sanitizer or baby wipes ready. After treat time was over, I had 2 Moms help line up the kids to wipe down their hands. They weren’t about to touch my piano with greasy fingers!
Keep the seating casual. It’s a party after all! You don’t have to have chairs for everyone. Since my place isn’t huge, we had as much seating available around the perimeter of the room and all the kids and some parents sat on the rug on the floor. I announced everyone and we all sang along. It was a blast!
Things I will do differently next time: This was my first time throwing a sing along party so I want to share with you what I will do differently when I do it again. One thing I’ll do is have the wine and treats closer to the sitting area. I think it would have been nice for the adults to keep pouring wine. Also, I will hire a photographer. You notice I didn’t post any photos here? Yeah. My bad.
This was definitely THE BEST “recital” I’ve ever hosted in my 10 years of teaching. If it sounds like your kind of thing, do it. I plan to make this a yearly event with my studio.